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July 14, 2019

Climbing Mount Marcy

climb mount marcy
view from the top of mount marcy

At a Glance

Elevation: 5344

Distance to Summit: 7.4 miles

Total distance: 14.8 miles

Trail Entrance Location Coordinates (google maps): 43.108471, -74.368059

What to Bring

  1. ½ liter for every hour in the woods
  2. Jacket, the top of the mountain is about 20 degrees colder than where you start your journey
  3. Dense foods. Granola bars, nuts and trail mix, string cheese
  4. Toilet paper
  5. Bug spray
  6. Leg Gaiters – Waterproof to keep your feet dry (amazon link for the best price)
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Properly fitting already broken in footwear – hiking boots or trail running shoes
  9. Map – although the trails are well marked a map is always a good idea.
  10. Adjustable Hiking Sticks (here is a link to amazon, I won’t hike again without them) they certainly help you to move quicker over some of the terrain. Just about everyone that flew past us were using these to navigate the trails.

Why Mount Marcy

You know how your hanging out with your buddies and the night starts to get late, that’s when the really “good” ideas come out. That’s what happened back in December. Somehow the idea that we would all climb a mountain seemed like the one thing we all HAD to do. 

I’m writing this as it’s still fresh in my mind, before the blisters have healed. Our group was not a band of hiking fanatics, just 4 amateur with ages ranging from 16 – 43 on a mission.

marcy dam

How did we decide on Marcy, well it’s the highest peak in New York and the Adirondacks with an elevation of 5,344. So it was the obvious choice for us. We would also be within a 2 hour drive from where we vacation on the 4th of July, so it was the perfect day trip.

After doing a little more research I realized that it wasn’t just the mountain that would be a challenge, it was the 15 mile (14.8 miles)  hike that came along with it. As I said before, we are complete amateurs. To us, a 3 mile hike is a long distance, so keep that in mind as you read.

Here Is The Video Of Our Adventure

How Do You Get To Marcy

The best way to get up Marcy was through the Van Hoevenberg trail. There is a welcome center without an address. That’s where the trail begins, you will need to use the coordinates 43.108471, -74.368059 in google maps, or a good old fashioned map to find it.

My GPS did not work properly on the ride up and cell phone reception is very limited so keep this in mind if you plan to rely on technology.

Newbies in the Woods

Get your parking pass inside if there is no one at the gate. We began speaking with one of the welcoming members upon arrival. She was asking us questions to make sure we were prepared for our day in the woods. I guess we really stood out!

Adirondack welcome center

She immediately pointed out that most of us were wearing cotton. A bad choice for a day long hike in the summer. Live and learn… the hard way. Cotton does not wick away the sweat as well as other materials. Instead it just gets heavier and uncomfortable as we found out first hand.

“Just go as far as you can. There is no shame if you don’t make it all the way up.” She said. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to discourage, or inspire us but with that we headed toward the trail. 

What to Expect Climbing Mount Marcy

Be sure you register at the registration hut before you begin. Also take note of the bear warning, for correctly storing your food. The trail was clearly marked with blue discs, and a mile marker sign every few miles. Marcy is not the only mountain along the trail, but that was the focus of our trip so we never ventured off in any other directions.

mount marcy trail bear warning

The trail was well worn with lots of foot traffic. The only hiccups were the roots that gnarled their way through it. I thought, “this is a piece of cake.” 

starting the hike to mount marcy summit

Marcy Dam

At 2.1 miles you come to Marcy Dam. We were fortunate to have perfect weather for our day out as you can see in the pictures. You cant see Mount Marcy from here but this is a great place to stop for a water break.

The next stretch of the trail gives you a taste of what’s to come. You begin to head upwards a bit, walking over rocks that litter the trail. It was a bit muddy because of the wet spring/summer we have had. Navigating the rocks isn’t too difficult and it keeps you out of the mud. I recommend wearing gaiters to keep the water out.

Indian Falls

The next highlight on the hike is Indian Falls. You come to a stream you need to cross and there is a sign for the falls. Marcy was one way, and the falls was another. We decided not to travel to the falls not knowing how far away they actually were, and like I said earlier we were on a mission. We figured, depending on how we were feeling we could hit the falls on the way back.

We were informed by other hikers that this was about halfway to Marcy’s summit. We didn’t realize it was the “easy” half.

Never Ending Stairway

We headed down the trail marked with blue discs and came to what looked like a dry creek bed with very large rocks going up. This went on for just over 2 miles. At this point we were all starting to slow down. The enthusiasm we started off with was slowly draining with every step upward. At this point the black flies were relentless, and every water break needed a re-application of bug spray.

climb mount marcy creek bed trail

Once through the dry creek bed, the trail changes back into a more typical trail. The vegetation also begins to look a bit different. As you make your way along the trail there are small clearings with breathtaking views. This helped motivate us to keep going.

About a mile away from the summit there is a clearing where you can get a good view of Marcy. It looked so far away but we had come this far so going back was not an option. This was the “fun” part of the climbing according to my son (16). From this point on the trail changes, and you are now faced with climbing the rock that IS Marcy. The trail is marked well with yellow stripes. Some of the spots were challenging to navigate, mainly because we were out of gas. This last bit of the trail was the greatest. The view was spectacular with every changing movement forward.

climbing mount marcy

Although it was July in New York the top of the mountain still had a little snow on it. The air was cooler and the wind was a consistent 20mph, but it was refreshing on the warm buggy day.

small snow pack on top of mount marcy

The vegetation completely changes at this point, there are no more trees. You enter a tundra climate zone. 

On Top Of A Mountain

Upon reaching the top, after a short rest we were greeted by a ranger. He informed us that he was there to greet people and answer any questions they had. He was enthusiastically knowledgeable about anything we asked.

One of our questions: “Is there a shortcut to get back down?” (probably heard that a million times) and he told us the quickest way down was the way we came up. He hikes up to the summit every morning and hikes back down at the end of the day. I found this to be quite unusual, and couldn’t imagine doing this on a daily basis.

Retracing Our Steps

Once we felt a little rejuvenated it was time to start the long hike back to the car. You would think going down would be the easy part, it wasn’t. We moved along at a steady pace. The difficult part was the 2 miles or so of creek bed that seemed to never end.

Once we were through that the rest was fairly easy… just long.

We never did make it to see indian falls. I guess i’lll save that for my next trip. 

Is Mount Marcy Hard to Hike

This is a loaded question. There are lots of variables, like what kind of shape you’re in and how much drive you have. It was not too difficult as far as the climb goes. The most difficult part of the hike was the last mile or so, but even that wasn’t too steep.

The majority of the hike is a creek bed filled with boulders. It was difficult to look around and take it all in. my attention was mainly on the ground, trying not to twist my ankle. Two miles of this wore me down.

The length of the hike is another factor. Now i consider myself in pretty good shape. I work out 4 to 5 times per week for an hour or so at a time, watch what I eat, not overweight, but that wore me out. 

My son 16, had no problems and was waiting for us to catch up on many occasions.

Our Plan 

Begin hiking by 7:00Am

Reach the summit by 11

Recover for an hour then head back down at 12

Back to the car by 4

I assumed we would be hiking at an average pace of 2mph for 14.8 miles

Total time: 9 hours


Began hiking at 7:30

Reached summit at 1:05pm

Recovered for about 45 min and started to climb down at 1:50pm

Back to the car at 6:15

Total time: 10 hours 45 min

As you can see we were off a bit from our original plan. If you plan on doing this in a day be sure to get there early, parking does start to fill up the later it gets. If you are new to this type of hiking give yourself some extra time, another reason to begin early.

All in All A Great Day

plaque on top of mount marcy

It’s always great to get out in nature and get inspired. This trip recharged my batteries and filled me with enthusiasm. Trying to recreate what mother nature does so flawlessly is a challenge. But with this newly lit fire inside me I am up for it.

After doing something like this, as time passes your memory of the struggle weakens while the memory of the accomplishment gets stronger. I know it won’t be long until i find myself deep in the woods climbing more peaks. As I was warned by another hiker we ran into “Be careful, this is addictive”.


April 3, 2018

Gardening With Clay Soil

gardening in clay soil

If you’re like me, then you just can’t wait to get out to the garden. Whether it’s aquatic plants or the surrounding landscape, it makes no difference it all adds beauty to what you see. One of the challenges we face as gardeners is dealing with the hand we are dealt. We are not hostages to the land we plant on, in other words just because you may have clay soil, or sandy soil or whatever the challenge, there is no reason you can’t have the garden of your dreams. The short video below gives a quick overview of what clay soil is, and some quick tips on how it can be improved.

Three Major Types of Soil

Sandy soil – This soil is made up of large granules, that allow for air and water to pass through them. Because of the larger spaces between the particles, water passes through much easier. This also leads to this type of soil drying out much faster than the other two. Sandy soil requires more watering as well. It has no ability to hold water and as a result many of the nutrients are flushed out. As a result, it requires constant lighter applications of fertilizer. This soil stays loose and crumbles easily.

Loam soil – This is the ideal soil for gardeners. It has a great balance of sand, clay, and organic matter. It has the ability to absorb water and contain it, and at the same time releases it freely. Most soil leans to one side or the other, such as sandy loam, or clay loam. It all depends on the predominant particles.

Clay soil – Now for the topic at hand.

One major problem when dealing with clay soil is that most plants don’t have the root strength to push through the tough clay soil to thrive. When bulbs are planted in clay soil they have a tendency to rot over the winter months because of the soil condition.

Believe it or not clay soil is actually more rich in nutrients than most other soil types. In clay soil the particles are negatively charged, which in turn attracts positively charged particles like magnesium, and potassium However, the cons far outweigh the pros. These properties of clay soil include:

  • Has a tendency to heave due to changing weather conditions
  • Warms up slowly in the spring
  • Poor drainage
  • Compacts easily making it difficult for roots to break through

The Good News

clay soilClay has some great benefits as well. Unlike sandy soil which allows water to pass through, clay can be used to dam water and keep it from escaping. This is due to the formation of the clay particles. They are much smaller than sand. Because of their shape, and size they align with each other and bind creating an almost water tight seal. Because of its characteristics, the “disadvantages” could be advantages. For instance, clay having poor drainage makes it the perfect material to create a pond base with. On a large scale the clay will hold the water from leeching out into the surrounding soil. This will not work as well for smaller ponds like the one in the DIY section, but if you are looking to put in a large scale pond with a natural bottom, clay is the first choice for the surrounding material.

Another way clay could be used to your advantage is clay is ideal for making dams, and directing the flow of water. It’s the perfect candidate to use to guide excess runoff water during the rainy season.

If you are digging in clay soil, be sure to allow it to dry out before you do. When digging you will only compact the clay together if it is wet.

What Does Clay Soil Mean to My Plants?

First off the pH of the soil is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. This makes 7 neutral, anything below 7 would be considered acidic, anything above 7 would be considered alkaline. So what does all this mean to the gardener? Well, the pH has a direct effect on how soluble certain minerals and nutrients are in the soil, which has a direct effect on how well certain plants will grow in that soil.

The more alkaline a soil is, the harder it is for minerals and nutrients to dissolve in that soil. In order for plants to get their minerals and nutrients they must first be absorbed into the soil, creating a solution the plants can use. One benefit of clay is because of its plasticity nature it is easily mixed.

The fact that clay is mostly inorganic doesn’t make it a good candidate for planting, however it can be improved dramatically by adding organic material to it.

Plants For Every Soil Condition

Here are some recommendations for what types of plants prefer which soil. This is a compressed list and a general overview. The soil types are based mainly on pH of the soil and what nutrients and fertilizer should be used for each type of plant

Acidic soil Loving Plants

Plants that prefer pH of approximately 5.5 which allows easy absorption of nutrients. The list of plants that prefer this type of soil is extensive. This is just a short list of plants that prefer this type of soil. If the soil you are trying to plant in is more alkaline, then it is recommended growing the following plant in either containers, or raised beds. Acid loving plants are most prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, and the Eastern parts of the United States. Here is a short list of plants, shrubs and trees that flourish in acidic soil:


  • All types of ferns
  • Japanese iris
  • Begonia
  • Trillium


  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • Blueberry


  • Japanese dogwood
  • Eastern white pine
  • Maples Weeping willow
  • Canadian hemlock

Plants that thrive in alkaline soil

These are plants that can tolerate a more alkaline or clay like soil.

PlantsMorning glory

  • Morning glory
  • Crocus
  • Geranium


  • Lilac
  • Forsythia
  • Juniper
  • Butterfly bush


  • Green ash
  • Maple
  • Douglas fir
  • Bur oak

Before You Start

Before adding any type of fertilizer to your soil it is recommended to get a soil test done to help guide you as to how to improve your soil quality depending on the plants you desire to grow. It is recommended to get your soil tested every three to four years. These tests generally run around $30 depending on where you have it done. Once you have the test results, determine how much of what kind of fertilizer to use based on the charts below. These charts are from Colorado State University.

soil test resultsJust Wing It

roll the diceHowever, if you choose not to get a soil test done, then it is recommended that you don’t over fertilize. Periodically add small amounts of nitrogen to the soil throughout the growing season (every 4 – 6 weeks) to promote healthy growth. Adding other nutrients my actually hurt your plants if there is an overabundance of one nutrient over another. For example, an overabundance of phosphorous will cause a reduction of the plants ability to absorb iron.

Most vegetables prefer neutral soil rich with organic material. There are three elements that fertilizers are typically measured in. They are labeled by number. The first number is nitrogen (N), the second number is phosphate (P), and the third represents the potassium (K). For instance, 10 -10 – 10 has equal amounts of all three nutrients. A common recommendation for planting vegetables is to fertilize with 1 pound of 10 – 10 –10 per 100-foot row.

There are special fertilizers for specific plants. If you are planning to fertilize your juniper bushes for instance, be sure to use a fertilizer for acid loving plants. This will help maintain the pH of the soil.

Final Thoughts

There is a little more to gardening than just digging a hole and placing a plant in it. If you follow the guidelines above, you should be successful at all your gardening endeavors. If you have any comments or advice, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Happy gardening!